Ron’s Gastrobar Oriental ***
Open 7 days per week 17:30 to 23:00
Tel: (+31) 20 22 35 352
This is my first venture into Ron Blaauw’s empire, apart from a rather disappointing visit to Bridges in the Sofitel Grand, which claims it is inspired by said chef.
I fancied some oriental food which was a bit better than your average Zeedijk stuff so, booking a week in advance, we headed over to see what the fuss was all about. Some of you may have tried Julius Jaspers attempt at a Asian fusion restaurant – Happy Happy, Joy Joy which can only be described as Sad Sad, Dreary Dreary. The Dutch take on most Asian food is to remove all the things that make it fun to eat. If you have tried a few Indonesians in Amsterdam you will know that they are mostly bland and have no spice at all. I was hoping Ron would do better.
The evening happened to coincide with one of the weekend nights for ADE and so the place was packed full of disco diva’s and scruffy looking DJ wannabes. There was one pair of girls dressed to the nines opposite us who started taking hundreds of selfies as we were halfway through the meal, with full on poses and pouting, probably for Snapgram or Instachat or the like. I’m not sure whether this would be the regular crowd so I will not judge the clientele too much, based on this one experience.
The menu is one of these grazing/tapas-style jobs were you end up ordering too much and spending more that you wanted to. They have a dim sum selection followed by small plates of other things which we were recommended to take 3 of to cover 2 of us. There are some specials to share (for 2 or more people) with fairly hefty price tags as well.
We decided to take a mixed selection of Dim Sum to start and below are the 3 dishes we chose for mains:
- DIEM SUUN DAI HA
Crispy sweet and sour prawns
- LING MUNG KAI
Wok fried lemon chicken with black pepper and leek
- CHAR SIU
Smothered pork meat with Char Siu sauce and coriander
We asked for the Dim Sum selection to be mostly the classical Sui Mai type thing rather than the western inspired stuff with Foie gras and whatnot. You can never be sure whether a restaurant like this makes its own. The ones we had were excellent quality and sauces to go with them were good whatever their origin.
The three dishes which followed looked very promising, all sticky with thick brown sauce all over the top. I was really looking forward to the Char Siu as I had not been able to find a really good example of this in Amsterdam. The first few bites of each dish were great. I was thinking we have a 4 star review on our hands here. It was only after 2 or 3 bites of each dish that I began to notice a problem. Unfortunately all 3 dishes we had ordered had the same sort of caramel based, thick, sweet, sticky sauce to accompany. After a while it was prawn with sticky, sweet, brown sauce, chicken with sticky, sweet, brown sauce and pork with sticky, sweet, brown sauce. I am not saying it was bad, just the lack of something different made it really boring.
I think if the restaurant were confident enough and staff well trained enough then they could/should have realised what we had ordered and possibly suggested something away from this very similar background flavour.
We ordered some steamed rice as a side dish. For drinks we went for a robust Barbera d’Alba which was enough to deal with the sticky, sweet, brown sauce and started with a glass of Cava which was nice enough.
Inside, the décor is lots of dark wood, dark green bench seats, with screens made with a gold square motif in the middle. The bar area has a brown marble top and at the back is a large oriental print of an Asian Girl. White-painted, exposed bricks, those thin slate-like tiles and spot lamps make up the rest of the décor. It was dimly lit when we were there but nice enough to give it that feel of chic lounge like Tao in Las Vegas. The music was a bit clubby but that could have been pandering to the crowd. If it was not ADE I would not have been bothered by it either.
The review in Het Parool gave it a 9/10. It does things well and service was slightly above average for Amsterdam but it just did not have the edge to give it more than 3 out of 5 for me. It’s maybe better than a 3 but it’s not a 4 and since I am a harsh marker, a 3 is where it will remain. I will go back and try some of the other dishes in case I have got it wrong, but if you want posh Asian food, maybe try my other review in this month’s Zine, Oceania, first.